I punched out of work on Monday and headed north with the windshield wipers cranked to full tilt and my mind set on running in the mountains. For the next two hours, rain rivulets wrapped around the truck and taillights from fellow northbounders reflected on the glass separating me from the damp air outside.
After peeling off exit 32 and visiting a dear friend in Lincoln, I headed to Hedgehog mountain. The rain seemed to fend off the tourists, and pretty much everyone else too. I was able to run the UNH loop trail twice without seeing a single human. The loop trail heads up to the Summit and back down to the parking area, and has incredible views on clear days. I was lucky on my second trip around to catch the clouds parting for a mystical view of the valley below and Mount Passaconaway to the south. Running in the rain and mud was refreshing and exciting, as I fell into a meditation based on finding the next place to put my leading foot. Strangely enough, the faster and longer I ran, the calmer and quieter my mind became. All mental chatter and outside distraction were removed by paying attention to the current moment.
The double Hedgehog loop is a great mountain run. You can carry just a water bottle, because you have an opportunity to return to the car upon completion of your first loop. There’s plenty of technical terrain and challenging substrates, but also plenty of top-speed worthy straightaways.
I did my midweek running around home along the Nashua river and at Beaver Brook in Hollis. My favorite trail loop at Beaver Brook that offers the closest thing to mountain running is a loop made like this: Old City Trail to Tupelo Trail to Pond Loop Trail to Tupelo Trail to Rocky Ridge Trail to Old City Trail. You enter and exit the trail from Rocky Pond Road in Hollis. The loop offers single track, roots, and rocks. There are some stunningly enormous boulders on the Rocky Ridge trail left thousands of years ago by glaciation. Elevation change is on the higher end for the local area. This a great loop to run multiple times while training for a New England ultra because it offers much of what you will encounter on a New England course (rolling terrain, roots, rocks, water crossings).
Here’s a link to a map of Beaver Brook: http://www.beaverbrook.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/education-corridor.pdf
Friday rolled in and I was off to the place where I really Live- New Hampshire’s White Mountains. After a week of solo running and a lot of time spent alone, it was perfect to spend time with some wonderful, beautiful, friends. We hiked the Flume-Liberty loop on a perfect day and really got a nice workout. We balanced the effort with great conversations and a lot of smiling. It was so great to be a part of a positive loop. We all fed off each other’s excitement, and I really think that we served each other well by pointing out the beauty that was surrounding us and the great fortune we had to be sharing the day together in such a magical place.
This past week marked the beginning of a inclined training routine for me. I am increasing the frequency and intensity of my runs up until the week before the Vermont 50. To help build up leg strength, I’m running routes with as much elevation change as I can pack in. Monadnock is my go-to mountain because it’s close to home. I’m trying to get up to the Whites at least once a week, though. To help build up my endurance, mentally and physically, I’m running longer. One day off a week seems to be right for me. But my if my body tells me different, I’ll listen.
This week was a testament to the joy of balancing solo training with spending quality time with friends. Good food, laughter, rest, and swimming give good energy to sore muscles, including the heart muscle